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Variation on a Theme

Continuing on the theme of  “if only we knew then, what we know now”…I realize that we have learned so much about trauma, what it is and its effect on the brain and body over the past 20plus years.  I think I’d like to change the paradigm to if only we put in effect the “what we know now”, rather than what we knew then.  What I’m trying to say is that I think we are continuing to behave as though we don’t have information, new science if you will to change how we are parenting, how we are teaching children, how we are interacting with one another in community, how we are practicing medicine.  I’d like to focus on parenting for this blog entry.  In particular, parenting children who come from the hard places of trauma.  We need to understand, we need to be taught what exactly trauma is and what it has done to the mind, body and emotional spirit (I may have just made up that term) of children.  We need to have that understanding, hopefully, before we begin to parent them as foster parents and/or adoptive parents.  And as we are learning about the effects of trauma on the children, we need to tune in to the possible effects of trauma on ourselves.  And yes, I do believe that this has got to be a part of foster care/adoption training from the very beginning.  It doesn’t mean that if a person has experienced complex trauma and toxic stress they should not foster or adopt.  It does mean, however, that just because someone has those experiences and now seems to be highly functioning, they may indeed be triggered in a stress situation and react rather than respond to a child.  They may believe that since they function so well, it just takes pulling oneself up by their bootstraps or “pulling up their bit girl panties” to just move on.  Sometimes training means re-learning and that re-learning includes re-learning about oneself.  I just mentioned triggering, what I mean by that, for example, your child may be horribly disrespectful and you react as though it is your mother telling you that you aren’t worth anything; or a teacher telling you that you shouldn’t bother applying to college because you just aren’t college material.  And so, instead of responding in the moment as though your child is not okay and that is why they have said terribly disrespectful things, you react as though it really is an attack on you and you go back to being the child who is being disrespected by an adult in authority (parent, teacher).  So yes, we do need to learn about trauma, about how being removed from a biological parent/family effects a child, how each subsequent move/disruption effects a child and why then they behave and learn (or not be able to learn) the way they do.  AND Additionally and along with  learning about trauma, parents need to understand how the behavioral manifestations of trauma in a child you take into your family may affect you and other family members. Stay tuned for Variations on a Theme Part II:  For parents to share with school folks

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